Contacts: Al Cross, SPJ president-elect, 502/875-5136 or email@example.com; Ray Marcano, SPJ president, 937/225-2323 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Jim Gray, SPJ executive director, 317/927-8000 or email@example.com
INDIANAPOLIS - As leaders of the congressional news-media galleries prepared for a critical meeting on Tuesday with Senate Rules Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, other leading journalism organizations joined the Society of Professional Journalists in protesting the Senate's plan to squeeze the four U.S. Capitol press galleries into two.
Senators want to evict the periodical and photographic press galleries from their spaces in the Capitol, forcing them to use galleries used by daily newspapers, wire services and broadcast outlets. The consolidation would make the galleries so overcrowded that some journalists will not be able to use them.
"The main galleries are already overcrowded when they are needed most, and consolidating them will deny some journalists timely access to newsmakers and the workings of the Senate," reads the joint statement from the journalism organizations. "Consolidation would have the greatest impact on news organizations beyond the Beltway, those that do not have designated space in the galleries. That would erode the quality of the news reports that millions of Americans receive about their representatives in Washington."
Dodd is scheduled to discuss the press gallery consolidation issue with gallery members at 4 p.m. July 10. Joining the Society in its protest are the Associated Press Managing Editors, the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the National Newspaper Association, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Education Writers Association.
SPJ President-Elect Al Cross, a political writer and columnist for The (Louisville) Courier-Journal, and SPJ President Ray Marcano, an assistant managing editor at the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News, have led an effort urging the nation's news outlets to join SPJ and other news organizations in asking the Senate to reconsider its plan to cram four U.S. Capitol press galleries into the space of two.
"We greatly appreciate other journalism groups joining this effort," Cross said, "and we urge anyone concerned about this issue to make their feelings known to Sen. Dodd through the Rules Committee office at 202/224-6352."
A copy of the organizations' joint statement on the Senate plan to consolidate press galleries can be found below: